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NRS538 Research Skills Guide: PubMed

Searching in PubMed

PubMed is roughly the free equivalent of MEDLINE.

In PubMed, the easiest way is simply to use the main search box. When you do this, PubMed will search for your terms as keywords, but will also automatically try to match your terms to MeSH terms, and search for those terms as well. In effect, PubMed does a keyword search and a mapped MeSH search at the same time. (MeSH (Medical Subject Headings) is the highly structured system of subject headings used by MEDLINE, PubMed and other medical databases.)

Here's an example of a search for quality improvement in Australian hospitals:

PubMed search

PubMed search detailsIf you want to know what search has actually been run, scroll down the right panel to a box headed Search Details. This will show you the exact search.

In this case, the search was for :

"quality improvement" as a MeSH term, OR (quality AND improvement) as keywords, OR "quality improvement" as a keyphrase AND

hospitals as a MeSH term OR hospitals as a keyword  AND

australia as a MeSh term OR australia as a keyword.


If you want more control over your searching you can go to Advanced Search and use the Advanced Search Builder to search for terms only in certain fields, including MeSH fields. This is also where you can view, and use, your Search History.

If you want to build a search using MeSH terms, and are not sure of which terms to use, you can click on the link to the MeSH database, in the More Resources column on the PubMed home page. Here you can search for, match to, and select MeSH terms, and add them into the Search Builder.

But these are more complex processes. For assistance, have a look at the PubMed Help, especially the sections on:

PubMed also has its own YouTube video tutorials, including:

You can access all 7 video tutorials at PubMed YouTube tutorials.

Finally, you can contact Tim at CSU Library, for example by using the Library forum in the NRS538 Interact2 site.

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